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May 31, 2012

Holy Newly-Revealed Hieromartyr Vlasios of Akarnania

Hieromartyr Vlasios (Blaise) of Sklavaina (Feast Day – July 7)

The Miraculous Uncovering of the Relics

One of the gifts from God to men is the revelation of Saint Vlasios of Akarnania and those martyred with him in the year 1006. This revelation took place in the year 1923 in the town of Palairos Sklavaina of Akarnania. The small and unassuming town of Sklavaina is found at the base of the Mountains of Akarnanos a short distance from Palairos, and beginning in 1915 until 1923 it was experiencing wondrous events.

Beginning in 1915, the inhabitants of Sklavaina would see a priest in their sleep, who told them to dig to uncover his relics, indicating a certain place. None, however, knew where to dig, and fearing ridicule from others they kept it to themselves. The only thing they did was to build an icon stand in the place where the Saint showed them he was buried, in the name of Saint Vlasios, Bishop of Sebaste (Feb. 11). The dreams, however, continued much more, and Saint Vlasios became more austere. Still, however, there was hesitation.

The Saint especially appeared to Ms. Euphrosyne Katsara, a simple and pious woman who had dedicated her life to the worship of the Trinitarian God.

One night on the 23rd of August in 1923, Euphrosyne was staying at her daughter Sophia's house, who was suffering from typhoid fever and was on her death bed. During the night, while Euphrosyne was up praying, the room was illumined by an indescribable light and the doors and windows opened automatically. Amidst the light could be discerned the form of a venerable priest, dressed in a priestly stole, and holding a shepherd's rod in his hand. His form and appearance Euphrosyne discerned in detail, though her daughter could only see the light.

Then this priest turned towards Euphrosyne and told her: "Euphrosyne, I am Saint Vlasios. Follow me that I may show you the place to dig to uncover my relics. I can't bear the sheep trampling on me."

It should be noted that the tomb of the Saint had become a sheep pen.

Euphrosyne, astonished by what she experienced, took courage, and approached the Saint in all her simplicity: "My Saint, it is dark, and I would be eaten by wild dogs. And also, my child is very sick."

The Saint replied: "Follow me, Euphrosyne, and don't be afraid." And taking out a Cross from around his neck, he made the sign of the Cross on her sick daughter. Then, Euphrosyne took courage and followed the Saint into the night.

The darkness, however, dissolved by the light of the Saint. Reaching a place about 100 meters from the Saint's house, he told her: "Dig here," and began to mark the dirt with his rod in a circle. Having returned Euphrosyne to her house, he disappeared. There, her daughter had greatly improved, and in a few days she was totally healed. From that time on, Saint Vlasios would appear to her and guide her.

Euphrosyne faced disbelief and skepticism from her neighbors. The Saint, however, continued his appearances to others, so that Euphrosyne would be believed. And at one point they began to dig in the place where they were shown. Euphrosyne told them that she had been informed by the Saint that his relics would be found on the third day of their work. On the second day, however, the worker despaired of their lack of progress, and dropped his tools and left. He eventually returned at Euphrosyne's insistence, and thus they reached the third day of their work.

At noon, as they were ready to abandon their efforts, they hit something hard. Waves of emotion and hope hit all those around, and banished their disbelief. When they removed the covering, a heavenly fragrance filled the air. The holy relics of the Saint were found! Their joy was indescribable. Among the relics were found a Cross and five nails that looked as if they had been made that instant, and a stone plaque which wrote the date of 1006.

Euphrosyne, having gathered the relics with reverence, cleaned them and placed them back in the tomb. And though it was raining, the rain and winds did not affect them.

Then Saint Vlasios appeared again to her and said: "I am happy that you found my relics, but you did not uncover my skull. As a result, you should keep digging to uncover it from the earth." And indeed, they began their work again, and found the skull of the Saint.

The Saint directed that they build the Holy Altar of a church, by the blessing of the then Metropolitan of Aitolia and Akarnania, who had gone himself to the tomb of the Saint to dig. Saint Vlasios appeared and guided the founding of his church, appearing to people by day and by night. He was among them and strengthened them.

After the founding of the church, the Saint told Euphrosyne to go to Lefkada to a certain man who would paint the icon of the Saint. The iconographer, however, depicted Saint Vlasios, Bishop of Sebaste. At the Saint's wishes, he made a new icon as the Saint was described by Euphrosyne.

The Life of St. Vlasios, as was revealed to the faithful

Details from the life and martyrdom of Saint Vlasios were revealed to Euphrosyne, Fr. Arsenios Tsatalios (to whom the Saint appeared on December 6, 1978), and Elder Paisios the Athonite.

Saint Vlasios was an abbot or retired bishop in the Holy Monastery of the Entrance of the Theotokos, which was in the region of Sklavaina-Zaverda, now Palairos. He endured death by martyrdom from Muslim pirates together with his fellow five monastics, and a multitude of Christian men, women and children in his flock, for their faith in Christ. He was beheaded, having previously been slowly nailed with five nails in his body, as was revealed at the uncovering of his relics. The executioners tried to burn the Saint's body, but it did not burn. The Christians who were saved returned and buried Saint Vlasios, together with his five fellow martyrs, in a common tomb. The rest of the Christians were buried in a large mass grave.

Their martyrdom occurred on the 19th of December, a Sunday, in the year 1006, as was revealed from the stone plaque.

The revelations surrounding the life of Saint Vlasios did not stop when God was well-pleased to reveal his holy relics. Many other new facts came to light in recent years. The continuous appearance of the Saint, and his continuous wonderworking power at the appeal to his holy name placed him as a bright star in the firmament. Much more could be written about it.

Saint Vlasios Appears to Elder Paisios

Archimandrite Augoustinos Katsabires had entreated Elder Paisios to pray that the newly-revealed Saint Vlasios of Akarnania would appear to him. He hoped to learn his appearance so he could paint his icon.

It was the 21st of January 1980, the evening of the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. The Elder, having prayed at night in his cell with the prayer rope, saw appear before him amidst uncreated light an unknown Saint wearing a monastic mandya (of an abbot). Next to him on the wall of his cell, above the stove appeared the ruins of a Monastery. He felt indescribable joy and exultation, and wondered: "Which Saint is this?" Then he heard a voice from the church: "It is Saint Vlasios from Sklavaina."

Out of gratitude, and to thank the Saint for the honor which he showed him, he traveled to Sklavaina to venerate his grace-flowing relics.

Mr. Apostolos Papachristou mentions: "May 20, 1980, the Elder came to my house in Agrinio with the desire to travel to Sklavaina of Xeromeros to venerate the holy relics of Saint Vlasaios of Sklavaina, after the Saint appeared to him in his cell. He stayed in our house one night and though we laid out clean linens for him, the Elder left them totally unused. When he went to Sklavaina, he venerated the Saint with prostrations, and taught all those around him.

Following this, the Elder ordered the icon of Saint Vlasios from the Holy Monastery of the Holy Trinity, in Koropi of Attica, having described the Saint's characteristics to the iconographer nun. When he received the icon, he was relieved, for she had exactly captured the Saint's image. He said: "It appears that the sister had piety and painted this icon with prayer and fasting."

Every year he honored Saint Vlasios' memory with a vigil alone in his cell. He, however, did not celebrate it on February 11th (the same day as the feast of Saint Vlasios of Sebaste) when his memory is celebrated, but on December 19th, the day when he was martyred.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
A new sun, has shone upon us, though you struggled, in former years, by the revelation of your divine relics, O our Father Hieromartyr Vlasios, you shine upon us with divine grace, therefore intercede with the Lord Who glorified you, that we be granted the great mercy.

Rejoice, the august boast of the Venerables, rejoice, the companion of Priests and Martyrs, rejoice, the divine protector of Sklavaina, rejoice, Hieromartyr of the Lord Vlasios.

Chest containing the relics of those martyred with Saint Vlasios